- Category: Technology
Kids love video games. So do dads. Perfect combination? if you can find games that both are going to love! Here's a top ten, reviewed by Paul Govan at Game People.
1) Sega Rally 360
This classic 90's arcade rally racing game was made famous for its floaty handling that demanded both a deft touch and detailed course knowledge from gamers. It has here been updated for modern consoles while keeping to its original style and feel of play.
Sega Rally has a trump card for super young gamers. The assisted arcade physics mean that when you hit the edge of the track you are bumped back on course. It's much like the buffers they insert for young bowlers - they can enjoy the game without the frustration of always throwing a gutter ball - or in our case, without always driving off the track.
This is ideal for those young gamers still getting to grips with the left/right stick controls. My three year old son can happily play Sega Rally for a good half an our, but is quickly frustrated by other driving game's accurate steering requirements.
Intermediate and expert games will find plenty to enjoy here. Although the learning curve is initially a little steep. How to corner the cars soon clicks into place and results in a very playable (and challenging) arcade racing experience.
2) Advance Wars: Dark Conflict / Days of Ruin
Advance Wars started life back on the original 90's Gameboy as Gameboy Wars. But it wasn't until the Gameboy Advance that the game really came to maturity.
Its offering of turn based tactics in a bright and brilliant handheld game was soon snapped up. The DS versions have extended the experience with more screen space for stats, units and terrain. Advance Wars: Dark Conflict takes the series in a darker, yet more simplistic direction.
Younger players are likely to struggle to grasp the forward thinking concepts required to progress with Advance Wars. Those that are comfortable playing Chess and Risk should feel more at home. In fact Advance Wars represents a good training ground for these other games.
Intermediate players will quickly get to grips with the basics of the game and appreciate just how much there is to do here. The initial simplicity gives way to a nuanced and complex game. Multiplayer mode may suite these players well, particularly if they don't have the time to invest in the substantial campaign mode.
Expert players will enjoy wringing every last ounce of fun from Advance Wars. From learning the ideal unit type and terrain combination to implementing complex pincer movements, there is always something more to do. They too will have the time required to really get to grips with the more refined aspects of play.
3) Boom Blox, Wii
Boom Blox takes the puzzle genre and injects the tactile playfulness of the Wii controls. It brings a number of different elements of popular physical games to bear on each puzzle. Firstly, it is build around a Jenga-esque world where you can drag blocks from towers that render their removal with real time physics. Into this simulated block environment is placed the ability to Bowl a variety of projectiles to knock, explode or combine particular elements. Finally Kerplunk-like hoppers provide additional blocks that slip out into play once their path is cleared - here the challenge is to only let the scoring elements fall to the ground while preserving the rest of the structure.
Boom Blox combines real life physics with puzzle game sensibilities. If you knock a block it teeters and totters as it would in real life. If you remove a block from a stack the others above it exert pressure that makes it harder to move. This sounds technical I know, but the bottom line is a very tactile play experience.
Young and novice players may take some time to get used to the Wii's pointing mechanic. Sometimes it seems hard to keep the pointer on the screen never mind a particular object. Children under five will most likely find this too tricky, unless they have exceptional eye hand co-ordination.
With a little practice though, older and intermediate players should soon start enjoying the direct control they have over each puzzle. And once mastered the controls become simple and direct - a testament to EA's continuing understanding of how best to use the Wii-mote.
4) Guiness World Records, Wii
Guinness World Records repeats the trick pulled off by Mario and Sonic at the Olympics Wii: quality in depth minigames with a strong overarching theme. Here, it is obscure Record Breaking rather than Olympic success but the enjoyable result is the same - hugely enjoyable family fun.
When you start the game you can register you region (I was surprised to find it knew where Devon was) so you vi for the top score in your locale. Provided your Wii is hooked up to the internet you can then download the latest local, national and international scores to compete against.
Each of the activities has a unique set of controls and proves to be well executed. A short demonstration introduces the controls before you have a crack yourself. Most of them combine two or three Wii-mote and Nun-chuck motions and button presses. These waggle based games often feel rather arbitrary, but here the sense of occasion and intelligent choice of motions means that they make a lot more sense.
Once you have complete the task in hand you are taken to a high score table. Here you can see whether you have beaten your own personal best, those in your household, region or even nation. If you consistently get high international scores, you have a shot at registering your progress towards an actual world record for inclusion in an upcoming Guinness volume.
5) Motorstorm: Pacific Rift
Although very much racing of the four wheeled variety, Motorstorm is unique in that the driver is required to glide, slide and surf their way around the varied levels. This is no surprise as the team were previously responsible for the critically acclaimed snow boarding game SSX.
New since the first game is the ability to race locally against up to four friends, as well as the extension of the challenge, festival and online modes. On top of this there are also new terrain effects (themed around the water, earth, fire and air courses) - with water splashes impressing most.
Very young players will struggle with the precise left/right controls required to get around the track. This is a lot less forgiving than the likes of Sega Rally 360. Those a little older and intermediate gamers will be both exhilarated and engaged by the experience. A few goes should be enough to connect with the basic premise that the right route through the terrain is key.
6) Super Smash Brothers Brawl
As Super Smash Brothers Melee was the biggest selling game on the Gamecube, Nintendo have taken their time to get the follow up right. Accordingly, Super Smash Brothers Brawl (SSBB) was released a good year into the life of the Wii, and to much applause.
Although some of the unique features of the game sound complex, they really do make game more accessible to novice players. The sheer exuberance and activity on screen, as up to four players battle it out, is great to watch and even more fun to play. The direction plus single button attacks mean that pretty much any age of player can take part, provided they (and their guardians) are comfortable with the cartoon violence involving a full gamete of bats, clubs, guns and missiles.
Whilst this move towards the mainstream has potentially made the game less attractive to the hard core fighter fans, SSBB still attracts an expert gamer following. These players develop their skill through their fast reaction times and knowledge of each character rather than the traditional fighting game techniques of memorization and timing.
7) Fable II Xbox 360
Fable 2 creates a world of characters within which the player can interact. They choose whether to win them over by friendship, persuasion, threat or fear. This starts off as something of a novel distraction, but as time goes by it soon becomes a central tenet of progress in the world. Often in Fable (as in real life) the important thing is who you know, rather than what you know.
Some players will choose to try and do 'the right' thing throughout the game, whilst others will enjoy playing the villain. Each choice has a consequence, and both paths often turn out to be more complex and problematic than first appears.
Fable 2's 15 rating reflects its grown up approach to story telling and themes that young players may find unsettling. The game hinges around real time combat that is by nature violent. It also includes adults abusing their power over children, and the implications therein. While these are likely to be negative for youngsters, those a little older (particularly if they can play with a parent) will find an engaging experience that raises many interesting questions.
8) Loco Roco
Cute cuddly games had previously been left to the casual gaming Nintendo DS. But LocoRoco on the PSP brings not only a fresh take on cute platformers, but demonstrates how extra horsepower can make a real difference to a game experience.
The simple controls of the game make it easily suitable for very young players. There are enemies in the game, some of which are relatively scary in a dark spidery sort of way. But the cartoon aesthetic persists throughout and there is minimal violence.
Novice and intermediate gamers will be attracted to the great visuals and kooky soundtrack. My other half plays very few games, but five minutes on LocoRoco was enough to hook her in for a good few weeks. She particularly liked the simple controls and understandable objectives - get to the end of the level.
Experienced gamers may balk at the slightly kiddy graphics, but should be won over by the tricky task of collecting every item in the world. It is easy to get through each level but takes a high degree of platforming skill to truly complete LocoRoco.
9) Colour Cross
Picross is the less well known mathematical cousin of the crossword. It combines the methodological joy of Suduko with co-ordinate specific number crunching to deliver a surprisingly simple and addictive format. Although Nintendo's own Picross DS game provided a slick experience is was missing one key aspect - multi-coloured multi-layered puzzles. Colour Cross provides this missing piece.
Although it sounds complex, Picross is essentially painting by numbers. The introduction of puzzles that include different colours creates a multi-layered conundrum that can take a few passes to solve. It also results in more satisfying pictures once completed.
Young players, although attracted to the simple look will find the gameplay to exacting and complex to take part. Preschoolers may get the gist of the very simple puzzles, but will soon find it beyond them. Those a little older, with a penchant for maths and design may find this a good tool to improve their problem solving ability. They may be better suited by the simpler puzzles of Picross DS (with the added benefit of animated solutions and great online play).
10) Lock's Quest
Lock's Quest brings the popular Desktop Tower Defense PC game to the DS. Following on from their innovative drawing action game Drawn to Life DS, this game extends their reputation for solid gameplay and innovative controls.
Lock's Quest is something of an homage to a very popular game on the PC - Desktop Tower Defense. As such it adopts many innovations and creative play ideas that the original game brought to the Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre. The focus here is on simplicity, something that suites both the DS and its more casual audience.
The game relies on some relatively complex strategies, and as such will probably not appeal to super younger players. Those a little older will find more to enjoy, but should be aware that the unskippable story sections do present a relative dark narrative that includes serious injury - although this is always in miniature cartoon form. Players looking for a simpler RTS game may want to consider Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise DS.